Open Source: Two Paths Diverged

What Happens When Open Source Solutions Are Acquired by Corporations

MUST READ: When Open Source Solutions Are Acquired By Corporations

When I think of Open Source I think of people freely contributing for the greater good.

Unfortunately, that glorious purpose can be co-opted by big business for their own ends.

Given their history of always trying to get the most work out of people for the least compensation – which is one of many reasons why the world economy is crashing – would you be surprised that for-profit businesses would love to have the fruits of the labor of masses of intelligent, generous and good-hearted without having to pay a penny?

That awareness was behind my recent tweet:

GrowMap WordPress Open Source Tweet

Increasing Leverage Marketing Group founder Zach Smith (@ZachsBuzz on Twitter) whose company specializes in Mobile Marketing, Social Media, SEO and Web Strategy asked me to elaborate on what I meant in this tweet:

ZachsBuzz WordPress Open Source Tweet

Since my answer would not fit in even dozens of tweets it inspired this post. Zach refers to this post by founding developer of WordPress Matt Mullenweg that states that WordPress IS Open Source.

I’ll start answering that question by mentioning that FireFox is or was or is supposed to be Open Source, but what kind of Open Source is FireFox?

We all need to start questioning the
illusions painted for our benefit.

If Mozilla tried to recruit developers by telling them they should donate their time so that Mozilla could make money from their work, how many volunteers would they be likely to attract?

If, on the other hand, they tell us that “The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization that promotes openness, innovation and participation on the Internet” how many will jump in to create great solutions?

Who really founded Mozilla or Automattic?
Who controls FireFox and WordPress now and what are their goals?
To be the best browser or to better track our actions?

Open Source versus Commercial is like the argument of which is better:

  • Communism (the STATE owns everything)
  • Socialism (the PEOPLE supposedly own everything collectively)
  • Capitalism (those who work the hardest theoretically will enjoy the fruits of their labor).

Unfortunately, these all fail short for the same reason. The reality of them – through corruption – prevents the ideal from being realized.

All we have is the ILLUSION of the ideals.
The way we have an Illusion of Democracy.
What people everywhere REALLY have is plutocracy:
Rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth.

We have to consider the probability that the goals of all the contributors to what WordPress has become – the best CMS (content management sysmte) for blogging and many other purposes – may eventually be co-opted by the goals of those who control Automattic.

Would the contributing creators behind WordPress
want to silence bloggers who are THE
most prolific and intelligent commentators across blogs?
Automattic’s Akismet Does That

Comments – especially when CommentLuv is in use – are how we quickly build communities of like-minded thinkers and strengthen relationships and collaborations with each other.

If it were not for Phil Hollows, developer of FeedBurner alternative FeedBlitz and Andy Baily, creator of CommentLuv – an alternative to the Automattic offering Intense Debate commenting system, Akismet would be still be used instead the GrowMap anti-spambot plugin – our Akismet alternative.

Akismet silences free speech and the most articulate of writeres by burying their best comments in a sea of spam – spambot generated garbage containing objectionable adult content and from bad neighborhoods that Akismet COULD easily block IF they so chose.

Because there is no consensus on what spam is
Akismet by design acts to censor our
best and most active commentators.

Automattic COULD fix this by giving many advanced bloggers the ability to moderate which sites are flagged as spammers. But they don’t.

If Automattic had the heart of the many contributors and users of WordPress, would they have made comments default to nofollow? Would that have been the decision that is best for the greater good?

Should we enable censorship that cuts off visibility for
those with the most to share to create a better world?

Or is that goal aligned with Google’s plan to favor big brands – as their CEO publicly announced in his infamous “Internet cesspool” comment? Google is systematically updating their search results towards that goal with the MayDay Update and the Farmer Panda Update being the most obvious examples.

Favoring big brands over small businesses takes away
individual rights to freedom, choice and equal access.

Google’s monopoly combined with attacks on Net Neutrality which is, as @DykesonaDyme said, “THE #freespeech issue of our generation”.

Read Timothy Karr’s (@TimKarr) post on The Huffington Post about BART turning off cell phones in San Francisco.

Did you know that cell phone companies have hidden in their small print that they have “the power to cut off mobile communications”… “without prior notice and for any reason or no reason.”

Karr wrote, “What does matter is the dangerous precedent set by public agencies that silence new media, and the need for clarity about our free speech rights regardless of the medium.”

It amazes me somewhat that so many otherwise intelligent people seem oblivious to the fact that search engines including Google censor results – and can easily determine what you see and what simply disappears!

How many truly understand what net neutrality means to free speech? Do YOU know why net neutrality matters? The Global Plutocracy is terrified of dissent – and that means they would love to eliminate our ability to communicate freely.

Do you read futurists like Esther Dyson on the long term effects of focusing on using solutions like Groupon can erode merchant prices or consider how unwise chasing low prices at the expense of sustainability truly is?

I look forward to hearing what YOU think
about these complicated issues of our times.

Leave a comment, please, and related links ARE welcome. (Quality comments and especially those with  links may go into moderation but I manually moderate them so check back.)

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Gail Gardner

Small Businsss Strategist at GrowMap
Creator and owner of, Gail is primarily known for mentoring small businesses and encouraging bloggers to join collaborations to share skills and support small business.